FIVE MINUTES WITH ELISABETH LEWIS-JONES AND CHLOE BAKER
Communicate magazine sat down with Liquid PR founder and CEO, Elisabeth Lewis-Jones, and Chloe Baker, the account director heading up the new ESG division, to discuss how the team will help its clients navigate ESG comms in the wake of COP26.
How will the new ESG division operate within the business?
ELJ: We have several different divisions at Liquid from B2B to food and consumer. They don’t have their own cost centre, but it will help our clients to understand that we have a particular expertise in that area. The ESG division will run in the same way, with an account manager and an account exec bringing different skill sets, from financial governance to environmental and social activity.
CB: I started at Liquid four years ago as a senior account executive and have since gone up the ladder to become an account director. I lead several different accounts, from property to education and now ESG. There is such a vast variety of companies looking to work on ESG, which is amazing. But being so broad, it can be daunting. With something as new as ESG, it is often a question of ‘where do we start on this journey?’ and that is where we are hoping to help our clients.
How did you build your expertise in ESG communications?
ELJ: One of the first things we did at Liquid was to make sure we had our own credentials right. Our office has carbon neutral flooring, and because we have several food clients our demonstration kitchen is made from sustainable wood. We source our ingredients locally and they are all purchased sustainably to reduce air miles. We also provide breakfast for our entire team using sustainable local ingredients. Our cycle to work and public transport policies mean that only one person in the entire office drives to work, and even that is a car share. It was important that we got our own house in order first before we went out and began advising clients.
CB: I worked for a charity for three years and that gave me the opportunity to learn what I am really passionate about. This started to translate into my other clients because I wanted to see what I could do to help them promote their green credentials. But, it goes beyond the whole environmental angle. COP26 means people are automatically looking at the E in ESG, but the social and governance side is important too. We do a lot of charity work at Liquid and in the last two years we have given £145.5k to charities either in cash, time and expertise. ESG in the wider sense is something people really love to work on, and it’s become entrenched in our nature.
How have you seen client needs in developing and communicating ESG commitments change over the past few years?
CB: It hasn't happened overnight, and we understand that businesses can’t just switch a light and become green. We’ve been working on these things for a long time and it's finally at the stage where we can shout about it. In terms of clients, we've definitely seen more leads come in that are very ESG focused. Five or ten years ago it was all about the bottom line. Whereas now, if your ESG score is really low then your investment will plummet. Investors are looking at the bigger picture and companies falling short on ESG risk missing out on serious investment. Brands with a good ESG grounding are also better situated to deal with a crisis and come out in a stronger position.
ELJ: There is a lot of noise around ESG, and businesses are often worried about putting their head above the parapet because they've seen how easily they could be knocked down. But people now know they need to address it.
What does it mean to be a purpose driven business and why are ESG commitments so important?
ELJ: It is about being a business that's a force for good and putting something back into the community. It’s about impacting those around you and giving them opportunities. It's about making sure that there's no gender pay gap and ensuring you employ people from a wide cross section. That’s what is so wonderful about PR at the moment, it crosses the marketing discipline into operations. People are starting to understand that everything from messaging and tone to your vision and values, all fall within the PR remit.
How do you expect COP26 will impact client needs and business operations moving forward?
ELJ: It is interesting because we have had COP1 all the way to COP25 before, and many people still don’t even know what COP stands for. But being in the UK, I think there was lot more emphasis surrounding it this year. Businesses are starting to question what role they need to play and where to start. At Liquid we have a small but perfectly formed team of people who have got the specialism and are already working with clients in that area. If it wasn't on their agenda before, it really has been pushed to the fore now.
Which ESG project have you worked on that you are most proud of?
CB: The Copper Sustainability Partnership was formed in March earlier this year by two leading providers of copper in the UK. While copper is often associated with mining, there is actually enough copper in circulation to never have to mine again. But this message is not well known. A lot of houses are now installing flammable plastic pipes but there is no infrastructure in existence to recycle them. As a result, they are often replaced and sent to landfill, contributing to the wider plastic issue. Copper on the other hand is infinitely recyclable and loses none of its properties. We launched this partnership seven months ago and we are providing thought leadership and content across social, digital and press. It’s powerful because it is two competitors that formed a partnership for the greater good of the industry. It has been an interesting one to explore from an environmental perspective.
ELJ: Every year Whitley Fund for Nature host a ceremony to award six individuals with a certain amount of money for projects they are already conducting on the ground. It’s about grassroots conservation with a primary focus on protecting species, surrounding habitats and teaching people to live more sustainably. We did all their social media pro bono and some of their media relations work. We also work with the Cyrille Regis Legacy Trust, which is all about getting kids from disadvantaged areas into sport, and with the British Transplant Games and Transplant Sport, helping to promote organ donation. It is about looking at where we can add value and what we can give back. It is important that business operates with a conscience because we are here to be a force for good, not just to make profit.